About this topic
Summary "Action Theory" as it is used here is the sub-area in the philosophy of action/agency that is concerned chiefly with the foundations of the broader sub-discipline. Central problems include the nature and scope of intentional action and agency, the explanation of action, and our knowledge of our actions. Most of the other problems that fall within the scope of this category at PhilPapers are closely related to such foundational questions.
Key works [BROKEN REFERENCE: DORRAC-2w]#DORRAC-2Perhaps the two most influential works that have shaped the current state of action theory are Anscombe 1957 and Davidson 1963. Davidson's essay is the locus classicus for the causal theory of action and for causalism about reason-explanations of actions. Anscombe's book has been influential among proponents of non-causal theories of action and reason-explanation. For a classic defense of the agent-causal perspective, see Chisholm 1966. And for a volitionist perspective, see McCann 1974. Some collections of essays that may help readers get a sense of the major debates in action theory today include Mele 1997, Aguilar & Buckareff 2010, Aguilar & Buckareff 2009, and D'Oro & Sandis 2013.
Introductions The following are good places to start to for those looking for guides to the current state of the art in action theory. Mele 2005 Mele 1992 Wilson 2008
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  1. Forrest E. Baird (1992). Human Thought and Action. Upa.
    A book of readings in Western intellectual history focusing on the role of reason in human action. Contents:^ Plato: Myth of the Cave; Plato: ^IThe Four Virtues; Aristotle: Knowledge of Causes; Aristotle: The Types of Governments; Epicurus: Epicureanism; Epictetus: Stoicism; St. Augustine: The Platonist; St. Augustine: The Nature of Sources of Evil; St. Thomas Aquinas: The Four Laws; St. Thomas Aquinas: The Nature of the Soul; Pico: The Oration on the Dignity of Man; John Calvin: Reason, Sin and Illumination; St. (...)
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  2. S. J. Boey (2013). De dubbele oorspronkelijkheid Van blondels “action”. Bijdragen 24 (2):130-153.
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  3. The Editor (1896). Voluntary Action. Mind 5 (19):354-366.
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  4. Denis Forest (2007). Bain et les théories centralistes de l'action et de la conscience d'agir. Revue d'Histoire des Sciences 2 (2):357-374.
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  5. G. Nigel Gilbert & Peter Abell (1983). Accounts and Action. Monograph Collection (Matt - Pseudo).
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  6. Claude Giraud (1994). Concepts d'Une Sociologie de l'Action Introduction Raisonnée. Monograph Collection (Matt - Pseudo).
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  7. Ana Marta González, Action in a Narrow and in a Broad Sense.
    The purpose of this chapter is to clarify the difference between deliberate action and spontaneous action, and see how Aristotle, Aquinas, Hume and Kant approach this topic.
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  8. Michael John Gorr (1975). The Structure of Human Action. Dissertation, Brown University
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  9. Scott T. Grafton & Richard B. Ivry (2004). 32 The Representation of Action. In Michael S. Gazzaniga (ed.), The Cognitive Neurosciences Iii. MIT Press 441.
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  10. Richard L. Gregory (1987). Seeing in Action. Cogito 1 (3):6-10.
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  11. B. J. H. (1962). Foresight and Understanding. Review of Metaphysics 15 (3):530-530.
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  12. Afsaneh Haddadi & Kurt Sundermeyer (1996). Belief-Desire-Intention Agent Architectures. In N. Jennings & G. O'Hare (eds.), Foundations of Distributed Artificial Intelligence. Wiley 169--185.
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  13. Lawrence Hamilton (2009). 45 Needs and Agency. In Jan Peil & Irene van Staveren (eds.), Handbook of Economics and Ethics. Edward Elgar 340.
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  14. Patricia Ann Handwerk (1968). An Investigation of the Concept of Action. Dissertation, The Ohio State University
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  15. A. H. Hannay (1941). Action. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 42:141 - 150.
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  16. Heinz Heckhausen & Julius Kuhl (1985). From Wishes to Action: The Dead Ends and Short Cuts on the Long Way to Action. In Michael Frese & John Sabini (eds.), Goal Directed Behavior: The Concept of Action in Psychology. L. Erlbaum Associates 10--134.
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  17. T. Y. Henderson (1966). The Gap Between Good Strategy and Right Action. Philosophy 41 (157):260 - 267.
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  18. Cecilia Heyes & Anthony Dickinson (1990). The Intentionality of Animal Action. Mind and Language 5 (1):87–103.
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  19. Alexander Hill (1800). From Reflex Action to Volition.
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  20. Martin Hollis (1977). The Self in Action. In R. S. Peters (ed.), John Dewey Reconsidered. Routledge and Kegan Paul 56--75.
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  21. Rosalind Hursthouse (1969). The Logic of Decision and Action. Philosophical Books 10 (1):24-26.
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  22. Don Ihde (1994). Action Into Nature. International Studies in Philosophy 26 (1):104-105.
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  23. Patricia Mary Lourdes Illingworth (1985). Consequences and Privileged Act Descriptions. Dissertation, University of California, Irvine
    In the dissertation I provide an account of action descriptions which emphasizes their role as explanations of consequences. By showing that consequences are ascribed to an action under a description, and only when that description can explain the consequence, I undermine the view that consequences are brute events. Roughly, I reason as follows. If consequences were brute events, then their ascription to an action wouldn't hinge on how we understand the action. We could, for instance, say in ordinary circumstances "John (...)
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  24. Tracy Lynn Isaacs (1992). Actions and Events: A Study in Ontology and Ethics. Dissertation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    The philosophy of action is about agents and actions. As such, it has both a metaphysical and an ethical dimension. My dissertation is divided into three papers. ;The first is wholly metaphysical, concentrating on the ontology of actions. I explore the relationship between actions reported by a certain class of "by" -sentences and argue that the relationship is identity. ;The second paper concerns the bearing that ontological conclusions about actions have on ethics. I argue that, except for the claim that (...)
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  25. J. E. J. (1971). Action. [REVIEW] Review of Metaphysics 24 (3):536-537.
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  26. Pierre Janet (1927). La peur de l'action: Les terminaisons de l'action, Les échecs et Les triomphes. Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 104:5 - 21.
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  27. Marc Jeannerod (2006). From Volition to Agency: The Mechanism of Action Recognition and its Failures. In Natalie Sebanz & Wolfgang Prinz (eds.), Disorders of Volition. MIT Press
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  28. Steven Jensen (2008). Exterior Actions as Signs of Intention. Semiotics:730-734.
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  29. Steven J. Jensen (2010). Getting Inside the Acting Person. International Philosophical Quarterly 50 (4):461-471.
    John Finnis claims that in order to judge actions we must approach them from the perspective of the acting person, so that the moral evaluation of actions appears to become private. This paper examines Elizabeth Anscombe’s claim that interior intentions can be discovered through exterior actions. Because deliberation is shaped by the causal features of the world, these causal structures can, when viewed from the outside, serve as a window into the private life of the mind. Therefore, we can usually (...)
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  30. Ernst Jokl (forthcoming). Human Action. Humanitas.
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  31. K. Jones (1975). Mind in Action. Philosophical Studies 24 (1):320-320.
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  32. Michael I. Jordan & David A. Rosenbaum (1989). Action. In Michael I. Posner (ed.), Foundations of Cognitive Science. MIT Press 727--767.
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  33. Elliot L. Jurist (1997). Affects and Agency: An Interdisciplinary, Psychoanalytic Study. Dissertation, City University of New York
    There is currently a burgeoning interest in affects across a number of disciplines--philosophy, psychology, neuroscience and psychoanalysis. Yet, it remains unclear to what extent one can infer that a common set of problems and concerns exists. In this project, therefore, I undertake an interdisciplinary inquiry with the aim of providing conceptual clarity about the meaning and function of affects. In particular, I begin with the history of philosophy; then I turn to focus upon psychology--exploring the notion of "basic emotions" as (...)
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  34. Shelly Kagan (1988). Causation and Responsibility. American Philosophical Quarterly 25 (4):293 - 302.
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  35. J. Nicolas Kaufmann (1995). "Philosophie de L'Action. Contribution Critique À la Théorie Analytique de l'Action", Par Marc Neuberg. [REVIEW] Dialogue 34:420.
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  36. Pauline Marie Kaurin (1997). Agency and Character: A View of Action and Agency. Dissertation, Temple University
    Standard accounts in action theory, given by Davidson, Hornsby, Thalberg and Chisholm explain action and agency by reducing them to descriptions, mental states and/or bodily movements. I argue such accounts are insufficient; they fail to take into account the full range of agency. Agency is individual and social. When agents perform actions, they consider ideas, beliefs and desires that are part of a social, moral and conventional network; these also give meaning and significance to the agent's actions. By isolating the (...)
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  37. Kenneth W. Kemp (1994). Right Intention and the Oil Factor in the Second Gulf War. Philosophy in the Contemporary World 1 (1):15-20.
    This essay responds to the argument that US interest in Kuwaiti oil made its war against Iraq fail the just-war criterion of right intention. That argument is based on a misunderstanding of the criterion, namely, that right intention requires not merely the presence of a concern for justice but the absence of any other (especially self-interested) motives. Correction of this misunderstanding is important to application of the just-war theory to the general question of intervention in foreign wars.
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  38. Anthony Kenny (1966). Intention and Purpose. Journal of Philosophy 63 (20):642-651.
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  39. Roberta Kevelson (1991). Action and Agency.
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  40. Jaegwon Kim (1980). The Role of Intention in Motivational Psychology. Bowling Green Studies in Applied Philosophy 2:20-26.
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  41. Heidi Kloos & Guy Van Orden (2010). Voluntary Behavior in Cognitive and Motor Tasks. Mind and Matter 8 (1):19-43.
    Many previous treatments of voluntary behavior have viewed intentions as causes of behavior. This has resulted in several dilemmas, including a dilemma concerning the origin of intentions. The present article circumvents traditional dilemmas by treating intentions as constraints that restrict degrees of freedom for behavior. Constraints self-organize as temporary dynamic structures that span the mind-body divide. This treatment of intentions and voluntary behavior yields a theory of intentionality that is consistent with existing findings and supported by current research.
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  42. Giinther Knoblich (2006). An Introduction to Intention and Action in Body Perception. In Günther Knoblich, Ian M. Thornton, Marc Grosjean & Maggie Shiffrar (eds.), Human Body Perception From the Inside Out. Oxford University Press 387.
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  43. Lothar Knuf, Gisa Aschersleben & Wolfgang Prinz (2001). An Analysis of Ideomotor Action. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 130 (4):779.
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  44. Emilio Mahdad Kosrovani (1989). The Inner Event Conception of Action. Dissertation, University of Washington
    Author considers versions of the theory that actions are inner events, either mental or physical in nature, and finds them ill-motivated, sketchy, incomplete, and inadequate.
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  45. Richard Kuhns (1960). Criticism and the Problem of Intention. Journal of Philosophy 57 (1):5-23.
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  46. Kamala Kumari & Mukta Singh (2008). Pragmatic Need of Mind-Control as Propounded in Indian Philosophy. Proceedings of the Xxii World Congress of Philosophy 29:65-70.
    The Indian philosophers lay emphasis on mind-control. Mind-control is not only negative practice. For, we are not only required to check and curb our evil tendencies but also employ them for a better purpose. The lower constituents of human beings can not be annihilated but can only be tamed and reformed. Cessation of bad tendencies is coupled with cultivation of good tendencies and is followed by good actions. According to Jainism & Buddhism, the path of liberation from sufferings starts with (...)
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  47. D. L. (1973). Enigmas of Agency. Review of Metaphysics 27 (1):163-164.
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  48. John Lachs (1973). God's Action and Nature's Ways. Idealistic Studies 3 (3):223-228.
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  49. Daniel González Lagier (2003). The Paradoxes of Action Human Action, Law and Philosophy. Monograph Collection (Matt - Pseudo).
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  50. Charles Landesman (1969). Actions as Universals: An Inquiry Into the Metaphysics of Action. American Philosophical Quarterly 6 (3):247 - 252.
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